Moving Forward: Assimilating Conference

Since 2011, I have shared my “Instant Post-Conference Thoughts” immediately after each session concludes. That is roughly 80+ sessions and 800+ talks. It is, by far, the most popular thing I do on this blog. (My ISP probably wonders why my blog crashes the server two weekends a year.)

Taking those notes and adding quick commentary is a huge blessing to me, as it causes me to focus intently. No naps, no ditching, and limited snacks during hymns. By the end of the weekend, I am usually exhausted and ready to not think about Conference for a few days.

This year has been a little different. What was taught has really stuck in my brain and caused a lot of self-reflection this past week. All good.

One thing about this Conference that struck me is how often I felt like I was getting “called out” for something I need to do, something I need to stop doing, or something I need to do better.

Usually when I get called to repentance, I feel guilty, or at least sheepish. This time, while I acknowledge my ever-present need to do a little better, this Conference I felt…happy about it. Yeah, weird.

Maybe it was because so much of the Conference was centered around how we can experience more joy in this life and the life to come. I am always up for more joy. In this context, the calls to repentance were often linked to the potential of increased joy. It made getting called out feel less punitive, and more motivating.

Most conversation about Conference have been wildly positive. The Saints are excited to move forward and felt last weekend was joyous. That said, there were a few things that led to interesting – and mildly negative – conversations that I feel are worth addressing. Two things in particular came up frequently:

  1. If there are this many changes, this fast, we must have been doing things wrong all this time.
  2. I’m not thrilled about the whirlwind of changes, because I liked a lot of the ways things were done before.

Before addressing either of these thoughts, I must make the point that in all of the changes we have seen, in organization, temple, teaching, youth, etc., none of them are doctrinal in nature. The doctrine stays the same. The changes are about policies, application of policies and how things are run. None of these changes even touch the core doctrines of the Church, rather, they reinforce them, and even make them more accessible.

Have we been doing things wrong? Maybe some of them. In a Gospel that teaches the need for constant improvement, why should we expect anything less from the Church? If there are things that could function better, instruct better, and serve better, it would seem that it is a reflection of progress in the right direction.

Times change. What may have been right in 1990, might fail miserably in 2019. What worked for a Utah-centric, homogenous Church 100 years ago have little application for a worldwide Church nowadays.

If I upgrade my phone from an old flip phone to a smartphone, does that lessen how cool and useful that flip phone once was? Nope. But I know the new one will do more for me.

We are all familiar with the concept of “Line upon line, precept upon precept.” (Many of us can still sing it.) When you look at that script in context, it is helpful.

And I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good that ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God.

For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith. (D&C 98:11-12)

It has ALWAYS been meant to be an incremental process. for us as individuals, and as a Church. The changes that have accelerated over the past two years are merely a reflection of the simple notion that “we know constant change is here to stay.” (link)

What can account for the flurry of changes? Revelation. The modern prophets have made it clear that these changes are to help prepare us for the return of the Savior. President Nelson went as far as to warn us that “Time is running out.” (link) The urgency is real.

I am willing to admit that I am not thrilled about all of the changes. Why? One reason is that I am reaching curmudgeon status, and am becoming more change-resistant. That however, is usually remedied by some thoughtful pondering and patience or just plain proving things to myself.

The other difficulty with change that some of us have is that we liked the way some things were before the change. There are some that loved Scouting as the activity arm of the young men’s program and are distraught to see it go. Others loved their High Priest group, others loved the Duty to God and Personal Progress programs.

Personally, some of the things that are gone were things I enjoyed. and things that I felt served my family very well. For example, I LIKED the three hour block, and feel less connected to the ward now. I feel my kids were well-served by EFY. I enjoyed the Hill Cumorah Pageant. I enjoyed Cub Scouts. I was proud to be called a “Mormon.” (And enjoyed using the moniker MMM.)

Mostly, I felt that the way Church ran things while I was raising my kids served us well, and it has worked out pretty well for us so far.

Here are two keys that help me understand why what I like doesn’t matter:

  1. It isn’t just about just me and my family. It is obvious that the Church is more diverse and broad than what my little family represents. The Church needs to try and accommodate everyone, even though we are all at different levels of commitment, understanding and testimony.
  2. What worked the past two decades could very well not work today – even for my family. Times are changing. Society is changing. It seems to be much tougher now to raise a family in the gospel than it was even twenty years ago. You know the expression “you can’t step in the same river twice.” I think it applies here. Time marches on, and things change. Using the same approach in 2019 as we did in 1999, or even 2018 would be naive at best, foolhardy at worst.

The crux of that matter is that I believe in God’s prophets. I believe in them enough to move forward with the new, and accept, adapt and eventually embrace the changes.

Not only do I believe that the changes will bless me and my EC, but also my children, and my grandchildren – because they will be growing up in a different world than I did.

Back to the beginning: As I reflect on Conference weekend, and think about the changes, I care less about what the changes are, and move to embrace them, I see them for what they are: The Lord’s guidance to help us be more truly converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to help us attain joy in this life, and the life to come.

“…ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God. For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith.

Yes, how well we embrace change is something we will be judged on.

There’s no point in looking back when what we are striving for waits ahead of us.

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Comments

  1. Awesome! I was studying Galatians (yes, I’m behind) with the institute Manuel and this quote caught my attention along with your post. I thought you might appreciate it.

    Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Seventy taught that the problem Paul addressed in Galatians teaches us about the importance of accepting changes the Lord makes in His kingdom:
    “Our willingness to accept change in the kingdom helps the Lord hasten His work (see D&C 88:73). Resistance to inspired change hinders progress of the kingdom. For example, in the last half of the New Testament a major challenge the Church faced was the issue of gentile converts being assimilated as Christians. This issue surfaces in the book of Acts and is a theme in many of Paul’s epistles. The problem stemmed from the fact that many Jewish Christians felt that gentile converts should be required to adhere to the ceremonial law of Moses. Even Peter’s dramatic revelation in the case of Cornelius, that the gospel should be taught to the Gentiles (see Acts 10–11), did not wipe the slate clean. And even after a special council in Jerusalem decided that the gentile converts need not be subject to the law and an epistle was written explaining this decision, the issue remained a source of contention and division (see Acts 15). This was a major change for the Church, and many members struggled with it.
    “… Many Jews, and even Jewish Christians, … had lost sight of the intent and proper position of the law. One reason for this was the unauthorized addition of requirements and traditions around the law that helped obscure its real intent. These additions and traditions were no longer a ‘schoolmaster … unto Christ’ (Galatians 3:24), ‘pointing our souls to him’ (Jacob 4:5), but rather were so burdensome and consuming that many Jews looked ‘beyond the mark’ (Jacob 4:14) and put the perverted law in place of the Lawgiver Himself. …
    “… I hope when we face change in the kingdom we can be like Paul and help foster that change rather than reacting like those who fought the change and hindered the progress of the work” (“Responding Appropriately to Change” [address to CES religious educators, Feb. 8, 2013], 1).

  2. “There’s no point in looking back when what we are striving for waits ahead of us.”

    My favorite part of the whole post. You could frame that and put it on the wall.

  3. This was a great read, Brad. You brought up some good points about the changes not being doctrinal in nature but instead *procedural* or *policy* based. Amen! It echos what apostles and the prophet have been saying over the past few years: policies and procedures change but doctrine will not and cannot.

    These are exciting times to be alive!

  4. My mother (1928-2012) told me lots of things about what the church was like when she was growing up in Salt Lake City. The church has constantly changed from the very beginning. One time we talked about how each generation has been told that they are a choice one saved for the last days. And when you think about it, each generation is choice and prepares the next one for their mission in life. Underneath it all is a beautiful continuity to the doctrine and Plan of Salvation. We can say, with Oliver Cowdery, “These were days never to be forgotten. . .!” We live in exciting times and are blessed to have a living prophet to guide us in these latter days (sounds like a song, I know). But it’s true!! We are so generously blessed, and I for one am so grateful that the Lord raised up a man like Russell M. Nelson to lead us right now.

  5. Yes, thank you, yes! Also amen. And hear, hear. Taking a deep cleansing breath, shaking off some cobwebs, a little steel wool to the rusty spots, and off we go!

  6. A comment about all the changes we are seeing..and I, too, like the cell phone analogy. A brother that spoke in our Sacrament meeting today said he had the experience the Thursday before Conference of attending a fireside for German speaking missionaries. Elder Bednar was the speaker. Elder Bednar said – and I’m rephrasing the rephrasing here, so do with it what you will – but Elder Bednar said that we were deem as “changes” are really clarifications.

  7. May I share my experience from this past week? On Tuesday morning as we watched eager virtuous youth pour into the baptistry of the temple. It was a joy to see mothers, young women and deacons participate in being a witness to the eternal ordinance of baptism.

  8. I’m so glad to read your perspective. Especially about this: “If there are this many changes, this fast, we must have been doing things wrong all this time.” Your comments and cell phone analogy was particularly insightful. Thsnks!

  9. Amen to your comments Brad. To those who feel a lack of support from their ward family. I learned a lesson a “few’ years ago: Sometimes you have to step up and be the one to invite the family to dinner at your house. Or in other words: you can take the initiative and be out there getting to know people, doing stuff, and not wait for the official leaders to activate a program. The Lord will let you know what you can do and where and with whom if you but ask.

  10. My only comment on the “increments” is that I feel like they’re giant chasms. I’m just having trouble figuring out what “home centered, church supported” means for my family. I get the home part, we just don’t have a lot of support from our ward — so trying to figure out how to make that up is a bit tricky.

    1. The change to “home centered, church supported” is moving much of the responsibility for teaching and learning away from teachers and leaders at church and putting it on the individuals and families. Too often in the past it’s been easy to assume the kids will learn about issues like morality (and many other subjects) from their youth leaders and the kids haven’t always known where their parents stood. It also makes it possible for scriptures to be a part of our lives all week long instead of just a class on Sunday, a good habit for the youth to pick up early.

      There are two facets to “church supported.” The first is the Church as a whole. We’ve been given a wonderful study guide through the Come, Follow Me curriculum which we can study and apply to ourselves and our families. They’ve been masterfully put together to help us focus on important things we might otherwise miss as we read on our own (at least I’ve missed many of them in the past and have been delighted at what has been opened up to me this year.) Reading, pondering, studying, and answering the questions posed each week as well as finding supplemental materials that are all over the internet can bring the Spirit into our homes. The second facet is on our ward/branch levels. The Sunday lessons reemphasize what we should have learned at home. We’re all studying the same general information, but on levels appropriate to each age. The “home centered” part is our responsibility, and the more we study on our own, the more we’re prepared to learn more on Sundays. We also need to discuss what has been talked about that day–a good time to do that is often over Sunday dinner.

Add your 2¢. (Be nice.)

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